Just a few years ago, globalization was in full swing and the world seemed to be bursting with an infinite supply of business. All this bounty lulled us into taking our customers for granted–until the economy tanked and shattered the illusion of endless prosperity. Suddenly, the old-fashioned “trusted relationship” started to look good again.
In today’s market, the most valuable commodity is the ability to connect with others and rapidly build trust. For our Feature Friday, Promotional Consultant Today reveals four ways that asking the right questions can lead to better business relationships.
1. Questions turn one-dimensional, arms-length business relationships into personal relationships that endure for years. When a relationship is all business and there is no real personal connection, it lacks heart and soul. And therefore you are a commodity–a kind of fungible expert-for-hire. A client–or your boss–can trade you out for a new model with no remorse or emotion. But when you’ve connected personally, the situation is transformed because clients stick with people they like. Bosses hold on to team members about whom they feel passionate. Your expertise and competence gets you in the door, but it’s the personal connection that builds deep loyalty.
2. Questions make the conversation about the other person–not about you. Most of us don’t care what other people think–we want to know first if they care about us. The need to be heard is one of the most powerful motivating forces in human nature. One of the most powerful questions is: What do you think? Another is: Can you tell me more?
The PPAI Expo
Compiled by Cassandra Johnson
TOP SHELF TIP NO. 55
“People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you’ve figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness and confidence.”
3. Questions cut through the “blah, blah, blah” and create more authentic conversations. No doubt you can relate to this scenario. A person says: “I want to bounce something off you.” Then, he proceeds to spend 10 minutes telling you every detail of a very convoluted situation in which he’s enmeshed. You do yourself and the other person a favor by getting him to focus on the true kernel of his issue. Simply ask: What is your question?
4. Questions help people clarify their thinking and “get out of the cave.” The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said that we perceive reality as if we are chained inside a dark cave. In this cave, we see only the blurred shadows of life outside the cave as they are projected on a dark wall at the back. Our understanding of reality is filtered and distorted. By asking a series of questions, Socrates engaged his students’ minds in the learning process. In this way he uncovered assumptions and slowly but surely got to the heart of the issue. Instead of saying, “We need to improve our customer service,” ask: “How would you assess our customer service levels today?” Or, “How is our service impacting our customer retention?”
Learn four more ways asking power questions can build better relationships by reading this month’s issue of Promotional Consultant digital magazine.
Source: Andrew Sobel is the most widely published author in the world on client loyalty and the capabilities required to build trusted business relationships. For 30 years, he has been a consultant to senior management, an executive educator and a coach. His articles have been featured in a variety of publications including the New York Times, Business Week and the Harvard Business Review. Reach him at http://andrewsobel.com.